human evolution

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Re: human evolution

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:21 am

Well, I wasn't going to return to this but...

Zhen Li, you misunderstand me.

On people rushing to save time you commented:

Other than extra time to meditate and practice the path to nirvana?
More time to enjoy poetry and nature, more time to spend with family. More time to spend creating and enjoying artwork and literature. I can think of plenty of things.


Which would be lovely if true but in reality does not seem to apply to a very large majority of people, in my admittedly limited 50 years of experience. You are ascribing some 'noble intent' when none exists. And if you read that Bryson quote carefully you will see that he noted that people were not using the time saved for the things you posit (i.e. leisure), but instead elected to work even more. As he says, a vicious little circle.

I think the main problem, Qing Tian, is just that you're being a grouch about things, and so terribly pessimistic. You have to lighten up a little to have a nice experience in the world, and spend some time enjoying the small things while being mindful of their impermanence - which is part of their beauty.


And this is just so far off the mark... I am one of those people who actually takes the time to experience things. I love life and all its myriad wonders. I am one of those odd people for whom a smile is never far from my lips and have often been accused of not taking things seriously enough! Go figure.


On problem and solutions you commented:

So if you're starving, you don't consider it a problem?


When I am starving I do not perceive it as a 'problem to be solved' - in the sense of it being an abstract concept. I perceive it as hunger to be assuaged. When I have eaten and the hunger has receded I do not congratulate myself on a 'problem solved' but merely pat my stomach in contentment. In evolution there is no procedure whereby some agency is looking at the environment and saying 'Hey, we need to change to survive. How are we going to solve this problem'. The changes occur randomly (mutation) irrespective of any change in environment (although some factors increase the risk of mutation), but some changes will have a better chance of survival under certain conditions than others, and so they survive until the environment changes to become less favourable for that form. Any other way of looking at it smacks of anthropomorphism.

We can agree to disagree if you like. I would suggest reading some authoritative books on evolution though as it is an awfully slippery and counter-intuitive subject.

PS. The discrepancy between how I present my written arguments and how I am in person has been noted on many occasions. Perhaps I am simply a poor communicator in print. :shrug:
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”
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Re: human evolution

Postby Nemo » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:44 am

The supposition of the first article is true despite everyone trying to discredit it. For the most part natural selection stopped thousands of years ago. Once we developed agriculture we could store wealth. This created politics and specializations that lead to lifespans being dictated by things other than simple survival. Natural selection today is not based on genetic traits. Our genes are essentially unchanged. We are not evolving in any direction now from a genetic standpoint. We are cavemen with nuclear weapons.
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Re: human evolution

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Oct 20, 2013 10:23 am

I think you'll find that this is incorrect. Evolution is ever-present. That we live longer (generally) and have better medical care (once again, generally) does not mean that evolution isn't happening. Currently we are exploiting the resources for all we can get out of them. Also, environmental conditions haven't really altered for quite a while (last glacial period was 10,000 years ago approx). Plus you would have to know what to look for. For example, there are some who claim that humans are getting taller. Is this not an evolutionary change? It may seem trivial but may equally turn out to be an advantage in some way. Who can tell?

Our current position in time is a snapshot that reveals little, and our knowledge of the past is exceptionally fragmented. Genetic changes due to random mutation that prove advantageous for higher life forms take significantly longer to become evident.

Two important points that need reinforcing.

1. Genetic change (mutation) is random (there is no direction and no intention) - some changes are beneficial, some are not, and both are dependent on conditions.
2. Forms that cannot access sufficient resources will not survive.

Also, forms are myriad. The environment generally supports a broad palette. That may change (i.e. with global warming etc).
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Re: human evolution

Postby Nemo » Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:39 pm

You seem to be confusing biology with some sort of spiritual trip. The pressures of natural selection based on genes are gone. What you are describing are envoronmental conditions that do not affect gene based natural selection. Arguably North Korea still has a eugenics program, but that is a minor point.

We have intact humanoid DNA from 42,000 years ago and multiple strains of human DNA from over 7000 years past. We have also sequenced neanderthals and denisovans. Agriculture and pottery changed the game completely. These are arguably the two most disruptive technologies in history. The ability to store food changed everything.
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Re: human evolution

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:49 pm

Qing Tian wrote:Which would be lovely if true but in reality does not seem to apply to a very large majority of people, in my admittedly limited 50 years of experience. You are ascribing some 'noble intent' when none exists. And if you read that Bryson quote carefully you will see that he noted that people were not using the time saved for the things you posit (i.e. leisure), but instead elected to work even more. As he says, a vicious little circle.
I would address the quote in the same way I did before, and in the end it comes back to that same phenomena of people saying "I don't have time to meditate" but having enough time to gossip and work and do meaningless things. It is a question of more opportunities, it is a good thing - when people's lives are miserable they live shorter, when their lives are more prosperous they live longer and get taller. (Cakkavattisīhanādasutta)
Qing Tian wrote:And this is just so far off the mark... I am one of those people who actually takes the time to experience things. I love life and all its myriad wonders. I am one of those odd people for whom a smile is never far from my lips and have often been accused of not taking things seriously enough! Go figure.

They why can't you see the potential for good in longer lifespans?
Qing Tian wrote:When I am starving I do not perceive it as a 'problem to be solved' - in the sense of it being an abstract concept. I perceive it as hunger to be assuaged. When I have eaten and the hunger has receded I do not congratulate myself on a 'problem solved' but merely pat my stomach in contentment.

The OED defines "problem" in entry 3 as "a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome, harmful, or wrong and needing to be overcome."

It also has a nice example from A. Storr's the Art of Psychotherapy, " The only persons who have no problems are those that are dead." (xiv. 180)
We can agree to disagree if you like. I would suggest reading some authoritative books on evolution though as it is an awfully slippery and counter-intuitive subject.

I've probably read them already. The debate has actually not centred around questions of technicality in evolution. It's more to do with a difficulty in understanding human values as being distinct from the valueless void of reality.
Qing Tian wrote:Plus you would have to know what to look for. For example, there are some who claim that humans are getting taller. Is this not an evolutionary change? It may seem trivial but may equally turn out to be an advantage in some way. Who can tell?

Qing Tian, I had the impression you did not believe in advantage.
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Re: human evolution

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:00 pm

Nemo:
The pressures of natural selection based on genes are gone. What you are describing are envoronmental conditions that do not affect gene based natural selection.


Environmental conditions do not drive genetic mutation (generally speaking) but do have a marked impact on what survives and what doesn't.

If you think our current lifestyle - longer lifespans, more abundant food etc - have halted random genetic mutation then you are dead wrong. There are NO pressures of natural selection. Genetic mutation occur whether we like them or not. Most mutations are harmless, and the vast majority have no discernible effect right now. Forms change over incredible spans of time and accumulate change very slowly. The fact that you cannot see instant change is hardly surprising.

So, Nemo, please explain what you think these 'pressures of natural selection based on genes' are, why you think they no longer apply, and why you think they will never apply again. I am very interested in your response to this.


@Zhen Li, what makes you think I don't see the potential for good in longer lifespans? :shrug: All I said was that in my direct experience people do not seem to take advantage of that potential and instead waste the time they have. I'm not being pessimistic at all, just reporting an observation. More opportunities is a good thing, I agree, and I have never believed otherwise.

As for problems... well, dictionary definitions point to the abstract concept. Here in the real world people do not approach their visceral problems with the thought 'ah, here's a problem to be solved'. If I am hungry and there is food on the table I do not stop to rationalise my situation, I simply eat the food. And I guess this interpretation is why we are having this disagreement. That's okay though.

Believe in advantage? What does that mean? I accept that genetic changes can lead to changes in form (mental or physical) that may aid in survival under stated conditions. I also understand that when the conditions change those self-same genetic changes could be detrimental to survival. What's your point?
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”
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Re: human evolution

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:05 pm

Then we are in agreement. :yinyang:
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Re: human evolution

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:27 pm

Indeed. And thank you for a stimulating conversation. If nothing else it has highlighted some serious deficiencies in my reasoning process and my ability to communicate effectively. SOmething for me to work on I guess! :bow:
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”
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